Brent Seabrook will be taking an extended timeout.
The NHL has suspended the Blackhawks defenseman for three games for his hard hit on Blues captain David Backes late in the Blues’ 4-3 overtime victory in Game 2 of their NHL playoff series Saturday.
Seabrook drove upward with his right shoulder, slamming Backes into the glass and leaving him woozy in the wake of the hit. Backes was attempting to control a loose puck along the boards but failed to do so.
In announcing its ruling, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety said Seabrook violently hit an ineligible opponent and Seabrook had time to recognize that Backes was not eligible to be hit.
“While it is possible that Seabrook does not initially recognize that Backes never gains possession of the puck, the onus still is on Seabrook to ensure that he does not hit an ineligible opponent,” the league said in a video announcing the suspension. “Seabrook still is in the faceoff circle when Backes overskates the puck. And Seabrook skates some distance before making this hit. So he has time to avoid this check completely. Instead, he skates into the hit and drives up with his right shoulder, delivering a violent blow that causes the defenseless Backes to crash dangerously into the boards.”
The hit came at 15:09 in the third period and Seabrook was assessed a major charging penalty, a game misconduct and was ejected for the rest of the game. Vladimir Tarasenko scored on the ensuing power play with 6.7 seconds remaining to tie the game and Barret Jackman sent home the winning goal in overtime.
“I was coming down the wall and I just tried to finish my hit,” Seabrook said. “I’m not trying to target his head; I’m not trying to do anything like that. It doesn’t feel good to see a player like that lying there like that … and knowing that I hit him. It wasn’t my intent.”
The Blackhawks spoke with the media Sunday before the NHL announced its ruling. Coach Joel Quenneville said it would be hard to replace Seabrook in the lineup.
“You need his size. You need his presence, experience and leadership. He’s got the big shot on the point, and he’s on our power play as well,” Quenneville said. “Kills penalties. So he plays all important minutes, and him and (Duncan Keith) make a real good pair for us. He’s been a great pro for us.”
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said he had “no idea” if Backes would be able to play in Game 3 on Monday. He said that if there was a game Sunday, Backes would not play.
“All I know is he’s upright … that’s about it right now,” Hitchcock said.
The Blues also were upset that the Blackhawks might have taunted Backes after the hit.
“I saw them talking to him,” Blues forward Ryan Reaves said. “It makes it a little more gutless. I don’t think there’s any need for that when a hit like that happens. You don’t need to be going after him when he doesn’t even know where he is.”